What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live

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Grayling Oxford University DPhil. In his major new book A.

Grayling examines the different ways to live a good life, as proposed from classical antiquity to the recent present. Grayling focuses on the two very different conceptions of what a good life should be: one is a broadly secular view rooted in attitudes about human nature and the human condition; the other is a broadly transcendental view which locates the source of moral value outside the human realm. In the modern world - the world shaped by the rise of science in the seventeenth century - these two views have come increasingly into conflict, and the constantly accumulating tension between them is one of the greatest problems faced by the twenty-first century.

Using his renowned clarity of thought and philosophical rigour, AC Grayling has produced an invaluable guide through mankind's ethical struggle to live decently. Edit this record. Mark as duplicate. Find it on Scholar. Request removal from index. Revision history. This entry has no external links. Add one.

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server Configure custom proxy use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy. Configure custom resolver. Cyrenaics prefer immediate gratification to the long-term gain of delayed gratification; denial is unpleasant unhappiness. Epicurus , a pupil of the Platonist Pamphilus of Samos, taught that the greatest good is in seeking modest pleasures, to attain tranquility and freedom from fear ataraxia via knowledge, friendship, and virtuous, temperate living; bodily pain aponia is absent through one's knowledge of the workings of the world and of the limits of one's desires.

Combined, freedom from pain and freedom from fear are happiness in its highest form. Epicurus' lauded enjoyment of simple pleasures is quasi-ascetic "abstention" from sex and the appetites:. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not by an unbroken succession of drinking bouts and of revelry, not by sexual lust, nor the enjoyment of fish, and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.

The Epicurean meaning of life rejects immortality and mysticism; there is a soul, but it is as mortal as the body. There is no afterlife , yet, one need not fear death, because "Death is nothing to us; for that which is dissolved, is without sensation, and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.


What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live

Zeno of Citium , a pupil of Crates of Thebes , established the school which teaches that living according to reason and virtue is to be in harmony with the universe's divine order, entailed by one's recognition of the universal logos , or reason, an essential value of all people. Stoicism's prime directives are virtue , reason , and natural law , abided to develop personal self-control and mental fortitude as means of overcoming destructive emotions.

The Stoic does not seek to extinguish emotions, only to avoid emotional troubles, by developing clear judgement and inner calm through diligently practiced logic, reflection, and concentration. The Stoic ethical foundation is that "good lies in the state of the soul", itself, exemplified in wisdom and self-control, thus improving one's spiritual well-being: " Virtue consists in a will which is in agreement with Nature.

The Enlightenment and the colonial era both changed the nature of European philosophy and exported it worldwide. Devotion and subservience to God were largely replaced by notions of inalienable natural rights and the potentialities of reason, and universal ideals of love and compassion gave way to civic notions of freedom, equality, and citizenship. The meaning of life changed as well, focusing less on humankind's relationship to God and more on the relationship between individuals and their society. This era is filled with theories that equate meaningful existence with the social order.

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Classical liberalism is a set of ideas that arose in the 17th and 18th centuries, out of conflicts between a growing, wealthy, propertied class and the established aristocratic and religious orders that dominated Europe. Liberalism cast humans as beings with inalienable natural rights including the right to retain the wealth generated by one's own work , and sought out means to balance rights across society.

Broadly speaking, it considers individual liberty to be the most important goal, [66] because only through ensured liberty are the other inherent rights protected. There are many forms and derivations of liberalism, but their central conceptions of the meaning of life trace back to three main ideas. Early thinkers such as John Locke , Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith saw humankind beginning in the state of nature , then finding meaning for existence through labor and property, and using social contracts to create an environment that supports those efforts.

Kantianism is a philosophy based on the ethical , epistemological , and metaphysical works of Immanuel Kant. Kant is known for his deontological theory where there is a single moral obligation, the " Categorical Imperative ", derived from the concept of duty. Kantians believe all actions are performed in accordance with some underlying maxim or principle, and for actions to be ethical, they must adhere to the categorical imperative.

Simply put, the test is that one must universalize the maxim imagine that all people acted in this way and then see if it would still be possible to perform the maxim in the world without contradiction.

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In Groundwork , Kant gives the example of a person who seeks to borrow money without intending to pay it back. This is a contradiction because if it were a universal action , no person would lend money anymore as he knows that he will never be paid back. The maxim of this action, says Kant, results in a contradiction in conceivability and thus contradicts perfect duty.

Kant also denied that the consequences of an act in any way contribute to the moral worth of that act, his reasoning being that the physical world is outside one's full control and thus one cannot be held accountable for the events that occur in it. The origins of utilitarianism can be traced back as far as Epicurus , but, as a school of thought, it is credited to Jeremy Bentham , [67] who found that "nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure"; then, from that moral insight, he derived the Rule of Utility : "that the good is whatever brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people".

He defined the meaning of life as the " greatest happiness principle ".

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Jeremy Bentham 's foremost proponent was James Mill , a significant philosopher in his day, and father of John Stuart Mill. The younger Mill was educated per Bentham's principles, including transcribing and summarizing much of his father's work. Nihilism suggests that life is without objective meaning. Friedrich Nietzsche characterized nihilism as emptying the world, and especially human existence, of meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, and essential value; succinctly, nihilism is the process of "the devaluing of the highest values".

To Martin Heidegger , nihilism is the movement whereby " being " is forgotten, and is transformed into value, in other words, the reduction of being to exchange value. If God, as the supra-sensory ground and goal, of all reality, is dead; if the supra-sensory world of the Ideas has suffered the loss of its obligatory, and above it, its vitalizing and up-building power, then nothing more remains to which Man can cling, and by which he can orient himself.

The French philosopher Albert Camus asserts that the absurdity of the human condition is that people search for external values and meaning in a world which has none, and is indifferent to them. Camus writes of value-nihilists such as Meursault , [72] but also of values in a nihilistic world, that people can instead strive to be "heroic nihilists", living with dignity in the face of absurdity, living with "secular saintliness", fraternal solidarity, and rebelling against and transcending the world's indifference.

The current era has seen radical changes in both formal and popular conceptions of human nature. The knowledge disclosed by modern science has effectively rewritten the relationship of humankind to the natural world.

Advances in medicine and technology have freed humans from significant limitations and ailments of previous eras; [74] and philosophy—particularly following the linguistic turn —has altered how the relationships people have with themselves and each other are conceived. Questions about the meaning of life have also seen radical changes, from attempts to reevaluate human existence in biological and scientific terms as in pragmatism and logical positivism to efforts to meta-theorize about meaning-making as a personal, individual-driven activity existentialism , secular humanism.

Pragmatism originated in the lateth-century US, concerning itself mostly with truth , and positing that "only in struggling with the environment" do data, and derived theories, have meaning, and that consequences , like utility and practicality, are also components of truth. Moreover, pragmatism posits that anything useful and practical is not always true, arguing that what most contributes to the most human good in the long course is true. In practice, theoretical claims must be practically verifiable , i.

Pragmatic philosophers suggest that the practical, useful understanding of life is more important than searching for an impractical abstract truth about life.

Meaning of life - Wikipedia

William James argued that truth could be made, but not sought. Theists believe God created the universe and that God had a purpose in doing so.


Theists also hold the view that humans find their meaning and purpose for life in God's purpose in creating. Theists further hold that if there were no God to give life ultimate meaning, value and purpose, then life would be absurd. According to existentialism, each man and each woman creates the essence meaning of their life; life is not determined by a supernatural god or an earthly authority, one is free. As such, one's ethical prime directives are action , freedom , and decision , thus, existentialism opposes rationalism and positivism. In seeking meaning to life, the existentialist looks to where people find meaning in life, in course of which using only reason as a source of meaning is insufficient; this gives rise to the emotions of anxiety and dread , felt in considering one's free will , and the concomitant awareness of death.

According to Jean-Paul Sartre , existence precedes essence ; the essence of one's life arises only after one comes to existence. One can live meaningfully free of despair and anxiety in an unconditional commitment to something finite, and devotes that meaningful life to the commitment, despite the vulnerability inherent to doing so. Arthur Schopenhauer answered: "What is the meaning of life? Salvation, deliverance, and escape from suffering are in aesthetic contemplation, sympathy for others, and asceticism. For Friedrich Nietzsche , life is worth living only if there are goals inspiring one to live.

Accordingly, he saw nihilism "all that happens is meaningless" as without goals. He stated that asceticism denies one's living in the world; stated that values are not objective facts, that are rationally necessary, universally binding commitments: our evaluations are interpretations, and not reflections of the world, as it is, in itself, and, therefore, all ideations take place from a particular perspective. In absurdist philosophy, the Absurd arises out of the fundamental disharmony between the individual's search for meaning and the apparent meaninglessness of the universe. As beings looking for meaning in a meaningless world, humans have three ways of resolving the dilemma.

Per secular humanism , the human species came to be by reproducing successive generations in a progression of unguided evolution as an integral expression of nature , which is self-existing. People determine human purpose without supernatural influence; it is the human personality general sense that is the purpose of a human being's life.

Humanism seeks to develop and fulfill: [83] "Humanism affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity". It is based on the premises that the happiness of the individual person is inextricably linked to the well-being of all humanity, in part because humans are social animals who find meaning in personal relations and because cultural progress benefits everybody living in the culture. The philosophical subgenres posthumanism and transhumanism sometimes used synonymously are extensions of humanistic values.

One should seek the advancement of humanity and of all life to the greatest degree feasible and seek to reconcile Renaissance humanism with the 21st century's technoscientific culture. In this light, every living creature has the right to determine its personal and social "meaning of life". From a humanism -psychotherapeutic point of view, the question of the meaning of life could be reinterpreted as "What is the meaning of my life?

There are many therapeutic responses to this question.

What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live
What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live
What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live
What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live
What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live
What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live What is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live

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